Hawaii Coach Meets With SMU
HONOLULU (Jan. 6) - June Jones hasn't resigned from Hawaii and hasn't signed with SMU - at least, not as of Sunday afternoon. Jones was in Dallas meeting with SMU officials and the search committee that's been working since late October to hire a replacement to Phil Bennett, who was fired after six seasons.
Should all go well, it's possible that Jones would leave the paradise of Hawaii for the daunting task of trying to pull SMU back to respectability.
Jones received an offer from Hawaii on Friday night aimed at keeping him with the program he's taken to national prominence the last nine years. However, he flew to Dallas on Saturday and it was later reported that he'd resigned. Agent Leigh Steinberg said that wasn't exactly the case.
"As of now, the process is ongoing," Steinberg said. "He hasn't accepted SMU, he hasn't accepted Hawaii."
As baffling as Jones' move might seem, it's not out of character for him. In the late 1990s, he left a 12-year run in the NFL to take over a Hawaii program coming off a winless season.
Jones took the 0-11 club he inherited to nine wins the following season, the largest turnaround in NCAA history. With a record-setting passing attack in place, the Warriors became a perennial contender in the Western Athletic Conference. They went 12-0 this season before losing to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
SMU might be a tougher challenge because losing is so entrenched for a program that still hasn't recovered from receiving the NCAA's only death penalty.
The once-proud program of Doak Walker, Don Meredith and Eric Dickerson went 1-11 this season, 0-8 in Conference USA.
Bennett was the fourth coach to lead SMU since it came off the death penalty in 1989. The Mustangs are 58-153-3 in that span, with only one winning season.
The on-field struggles were compounded by the long, slow hunt for a coach. It's taken about 10 weeks, with SMU going from the first major college with a vacancy to the only one left without a coach. The school received permission to speak with Jones on Dec. 24.
Jones would get more money, a bigger budget and better facilities at SMU than he had in Hawaii. He'd also have a more fertile recruiting base - and a lot more local competition.
Jones, who turns 55 next month, has gone 75-41 at Hawaii, including 4-2 in bowls. His teams finished first in the WAC twice and second two other times.